Tag Archives: PPP

Former Dale Holness Campaign Guru Omar Smith Sentenced To Fifteen Months In Federal Prison

Omar Miguel Smith, a longtime political operative of former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, was sentenced to fifteen months in prison by a Federal Judge on Wednesday. In July, Smith was charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud related to COVID-19 relief loans. REDBROWARD broke the news on the suspicious Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan Smith received in 2021 for Smith’s single person company, A Star For I, Inc.

Smith received $212,500 in COVID relief after claiming he had more than twenty employees.

According to court records, Smith lied to FBI agents when he claimed he got the idea for obtaining the loan at a local Caribbean restaurant. In fact, Smith was assisted by Sophia A. Nelson, a political consultant and former commission aide to Dale Holness.

Court records show Smith repaid the money after his meeting with FBI agents even though he spent all but $6,000 of the money. Smith told agents he raised the money from friends and family.

Smith told FBI agents that Dale Holness told him not to get a PPP loan.

Holness’ daughter Damara Holness remains in Federal prison on charges related to PPP loan fraud.

REDBROWARD broke the news how Damara Holness received a $300,000 PPP loan for her single person corporation by claiming to have numerous employees.

Omar Smith will face two years probation following the completion of his prison term.

Heres the press release from the US Attorneys Office:

MIAMI—Omar Smith, 42, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., who has worked on South Florida political campaigns, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and two years of supervised release for lying on a coronavirus relief loan application and fraudulently obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to help small businesses financially survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the information to which he pled guilty, in June 2020, Smith applied for a $212,500 forgivable, federally guaranteed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan on behalf of A Star For I Inc., a Florida company he owned. To justify the requested loan amount, Smith claimed in the on-line loan application, and through supporting fraudulent payroll tax forms, that his company employed 30 people and spent an average of $85,000 each month on payroll. In fact, A Star For I Inc had zero employees and no payroll expenses. A bank in Utah approved A Star For I Inc.’s PPP loan application based on the lies and wired $212,500 to the company’s bank account in Florida.

Once the money hit the bank account in July 2020, Smith spent the next few months creating a paper trail to make it appear as if A Star For I Inc. had employees and was spending the PPP money on legitimate, approved expenses. Smith issued checks from the company bank account made out to others who did little or no work for A Star For I Inc.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and acting Special Agent in Charge Robert M, Dewitt, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

FBI, Miami Field Office, investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan prosecuted it.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who suffered financially from the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of hundreds of billions of dollars in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud. It does this by augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.

CONSPIRACY: Charging Docs List “Co-Conspirators,” May Signal Omar Smith’s Cooperation In Ongoing Federal Investigations

Omar Smith

Federal prosecutors allege Omar Miguel Smith, Dale Holness’ longtime campaign guru, had help in his conspiracy to fraudulently obtain a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) COVID-19 relief loan, charging documents show. These same documents may signal that Smith is cooperating with Federal authorities in ongoing investigations. On Monday, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida charged Smith with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, Smith faces up to thirty years in Federal prison.

In charging documents filed in U.S. Federal Court, prosecutors allege “co-conspirators” assisted Omar Smith in fraudulently obtaining a $215,500 PPP loan for his Florida company A Star For I, Inc. in June 2020. Prosecutors allege Smith agreed to pay 20% of the PPP loan to a co-conspirator for help obtaining the loan. On June 1, 2020 Omar Smith submitted an online loan application prepared by his co-conspirator.

According to the U.S. Attorney, “the loan application falsely stated that A Star For I had 30 employees and had an average monthly payroll of $85,000 a month.” To support these bogus claims, Smith submitted false IRS documents prepared by his co-conspirator that “falsely stated that in the first quarter of 2019 A Star For I paid wages of $255,000 and had withheld from those wages federal income tax of $24,040, social security tax of $31,620, and Medicare tax of $7,395.”

The PPP loan was approved one day later and $215,500 was transferred to the A Star For I bank account. Prosecutors state Smith transferred $42,500 to his co-conspirator on June 10, 2020 as payment for obtaining the PPP loan.

Between June 2020 and October 2020, Federal prosecutors allege Omar Smith “began issuing checks to persons in order to make it appear as if A Star For I had full-time employees and was complying with the conditions of the PPP loan.” Prosecutors claim “the persons receiving the checks did little, if any, work for A Star For I.”

Prosecutors have not named Smith’s co-conspirators.

REDBROWARD was first to report on Omar Smith’s suspect PPP loan in August 2020.

During the same time period, REDBROWARD exposed a similar suspect PPP loan obtained by Damara Holness, daughter of former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.

Like Smith, Damara Holness used false documents to claim her Florida company employed workers with a hefty payroll when in reality, Holness Consulting Inc. had no employees. Using false payroll records, Damara Holness fraudulently obtained a $300,000 PPP loan.

Also like Omar Smith, Damara Holness wrote checks to associates who cashed the checks and returned the majority of the money to Holness. Prosecutors alleged Holness used dozens of people in this scheme. Last month, Damara Holness started a 20 month prison sentence in Mariana, Florida.

WAIVER OF INDICTMENT

Included in the charging documents filed Monday is a “waiver of indictment” which reads:

I understand that I have been accused of one or more offenses punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. I was advised in open court of my rights and the nature of the proposed charges against me.

After receiving this advice, I waive my right to prosecution by indictment and consent to prosecution by information.

In cases where punishment may be longer than one year, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure require a defendant be indicted by a grand jury. According to Federal criminal defense lawyers, Prosecutors may ask a defendant to waive the indictment requirement as part of a plea agreement which includes defendant’s cooperation in building cases against co-conspirators or other potential defendants.

It is unclear if Omar Smith is co-operating with Federal authorities. Damara Holness signed a similar waiver but a year later, prosecutors told a Federal Judge that Holness never co-operated and never revealed the whereabouts of $181,000 in cash.

Unlike Damara Holness, Omar Smith may have information that goes beyond PPP loan fraud.

As REDBROWARD documented for nearly ten years, Omar Smith played a major role in Dale Holness campaign operations. Smith helped form numerous controversial political action committees which aided Holness and his political allies. Smith used committees and other electoral processes to collect votes for Dale Holness and other favored candidates. Holness and Smith played key roles in the 2020 election which saw victories by Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott, and others.

Additionally, sources tell REDBROWARD that Smith’s A Star For I company received large unapproved payments by a South Florida municipality for work he may not have performed. One source claims a city employee, who is Smith’s close, personal friend, arranged the payment.

More to come…